We have officially moved into week three of rehearsals, and I can't help but sit here and kind of wonder how it is already week three. The time seems to be going so fast! Last night we had our read through/sing through and it was kind of sort of... mind blowing. I'm fully able to admit that I still have a lot of work to do in perfecting the harmonies in the chorus parts (they are HARD) but it was so cool to listen to everyone sing and hear the show come together with the lines in between. EVERYONE IS SO FREAKISHLY TALENTED. I don't think I've ever been a show like this with this many people who seriously kick butt. It's both terrifying and awesome at the same time.
So before this week, I wasn't called a whole lot - I haven't had to go to some of the dance rehearsals, and we had a couple days off, so I had a lot of time to think about Martha and her backstory.
When I first got cast in this show and would explain to my family and friends who I was playing (the awkward, unpopular, "loser" best friend) a lot of people's initial reactions were something along the lines of "Do you think you can play this part without getting depressed/upset all the time?" I like to think of myself as a generally positive and happy person, so when everyone began asking me this I wasn't too surprised but it kind of caught me off guard. I hadn't necessarily thought about it being difficult. I found myself looking through the show and really finding places in the show that Martha does get picked on. They are plentiful, let me tell you. I mean heck, the other kids in the show refer to her as "Martha Dumptruck". She's not exactly at the top of the popular list. Yet, I find so many things about Martha so redeeming. It would be easy to play her a stereotypical "nerd" or "loser", if you will, but she's more than that.
In the opening number, Veronica refers to Martha as having a "huge heart". I think that's truly one of her defining characteristics. She is resilient. She is able to consistently see the positives in her life, even when she is getting picked on by her peers. She has been enduring torture from her classmates for years, yet still manages to get excited about certain things (being at her first party, movies with happy endings, etc). I would like to think that cliques don't start at a young age, but let's be honest - they totally do. I think elementary school kids can be mean! I definitely got in trouble as a child for calling another girl's pants ugly (I promise I don't do that anymore) - something that is so simple, yet at the same time, what was my nine year old brain thinking? In Sherwood, Ohio, these kids became mean fast. I like to think of it as everyone else realized what was considered "popular" and Martha was just always one step behind to the point where she eventually gave up and decided to do her own thing.
Kindergarten was the last time that Martha truly felt happy with who she was. Back in kindergarten, no one was judging based off of appearances. Heck, I would imagine that she even was a little popular because she was smart. Yet in first grade, everything changed and all of the sudden she shot to the bottom of the totem pole, where she's stayed ever since. She stays there because she refuses to conform to all the pressures that are put on her (and her classmates) to be popular. If she really committed to buying the right clothes and being mean, maybe she could rise a few notches. But she doesn't. I think maybe it could possibly be due to her family circumstances, but I also think that she chooses not to. She also meets Veronica early in her life, and as long as she has one friend who accepts her for who she is, she's happy.
A big question in my mind was "Why does Martha continuously chase after a boy who gave her one kiss twelve or so years ago and has been mean to her ever since?" It doesn't necessarily make sense to me just watching the show. But, after reading Omega's blog, I realized that he was right that Ram truly never says anything terrible to her. I think that's partially why she is able to keep her hope alive. It is the kind of thing where he never tells her flat out that it's never going to happen, so in her head she truly believes that she will end up with her in the end. I like to think that when Ram makes some not-so-nice-although-not-directly-mean comments to her, he's mainly doing it for the crowd. He knows that Martha is an easy target and everyone picks on her, so he does it to keep up and not stick out. Maybe sometimes when he passes her in the hall he will flash her a smile. Maybe sometimes he's not that big of a jerk - which Martha would take as meaning that he still loves her. She truly believes that someday he is going to see that they are supposed to be together. It's sad, but it speaks to her character that she is persistently hopeful about life.
When working "Kindergarten Boyfriend" with Jeffrey and Scott, they talked about having her go to a "happy place". I think Martha has created a happy place that she goes to often when life seems to get her down. She realizes that the world she lives in is absolutely ugly; she's created a world in her mind that is an escape from everything horrible and sucky. It's a place that's beautiful. It's a world where Ram still loves her, Heather Duke is still her best friend, and everyone else gets along. It's an extreme fantasy - but it helps her remain hopeful in her day to day life. I like to think that when life gets really, really bad for her she can close her eyes and escape there for a few seconds, minutes, or maybe even hours in extreme cases - and it gives her the push to keep going. It's definitely something I'm looking to explore as we continue on in the show.
I don't know about you, but I like Martha. She is true to herself, she keeps hope alive, she wears what she wants to... she sounds like my kind of girl. Tomorrow we start blocking and I can't wait to get everyone on their feet and start discovering even more about Martha and building relationships onstage with this amazing cast. I have a great feeling about this show!!